Malaysia: Activists arrested at hindu festivalEvent
- Initial Date
- Jan 20, 2011
- Event Description
On 20 January 2011, nine activists were detained at a colourful Hindu festival Thursday as they protested over a textbook which they said was racially insensitive to the ethnic Indian minority. The nine, mostly from a group called the Human Rights Party, had gathered at the Batu Caves temple on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur as more than one million Hindu devotees converged there to mark the annual Thaipusam festival. The group has urged the government to withdraw a Malay-language book, "Interlok", which contains a reference to the caste system that they said was offensive to the ethnic Indian community. The book is to become compulsory reading for high school students. "As we were handing out a statement to the crowd, the police moved in to arrest us even before we could hold our press conference," organiser S. Jayathas told AFP from police custody. "We want the book to be withdrawn because we think it is not creating national unity but it is creating hatred," he said, adding that he and the other activists were manhandled during their arrest. Local district police chief Abdul Rahim Abdullah confirmed the arrests to AFP, saying the nine were detained for "obstructing the police in discharging their duty". He said they will be remanded until Friday for questioning. Interlok, a book written by a national laureate, covers the history of relations between of Malaysia's three main ethnic groups -- Malays, Chinese and Indians -- from the 1900s until independence in 1957. The government, which has set up a special panel to review the book following objections from the Malaysian Indian Congress party -- part of the country's ruling coalition -- has yet to decide whether it will withdraw the book from the reading list. The arrests come as the huge crowd of worshippers and tourists flocked to the Batu Caves temple, a spectacular limestone cavern and the centrepiece of the three-day Thaipusam festival of thanksgiving and penance. Devotees do penance by carrying heavy, ornate structures called kavadis as they walk barefoot up 272 steps to the Batu Caves temple, while others have their tongues, cheeks and backs pierced with hooks and skewers. Thaipusam commemorates the day when the Hindu Goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Muruga an invincible lance with which he destroyed evil demons. The festival is also celebrated in several other parts of Muslim-majority Malaysia. Ethnic Indians, most of whom are Hindus but also include Christians and Sikhs, make up less than 10 percent of Malaysia's 28 million population.
- Impact of Event
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of Religion and Belief
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
Nine Malaysian activists were detained at a colorful Hindu festival as they protested over a textbook which they said was racially insensitive to the ethnic Indian minority.